Smoking Hot

Maybe some of you remember reading Wind in the Willows as a child. When Mr Mole and I have been on road trips we have listened to audio versions by Alan Bennett of the story. Then, one year I ordered 4 prints from Geldart in the UK for his home office wall.

Below is Mole, Ratty and Toad from the collection.


But his favorite is Badger:

I think the nostalgic notion of wearing a smoking jacket has been on his mind ever since…so this year, I have made time to tackle this project. I searched for patterns and found this one:

And while it just looks super, after you buy it and open up the papers, you discover it is sorely lacking in suitable and necessary pieces. While the quilted lapels should be cut in all one piece, they actually do NOT have any facing pieces nor a top collar piece nor lining. The directions show construction for a different notched collar and they expect you to make up your own missing pieces. There are no expected notches for matching the pieces either. Thankfully there are “straight of grain” lines and closure markings but that is it.

Also interesting is the fact that the purple model has it closed right over left.

The pattern is for the shorter higher lapel but even then they do not include the pattern pieces. If you want the deeper lower shawl collar…you are out of luck unless you know how to draft patterns.

Despite the disappointing and crappy start, I made a muslin to work out the bugs. Lots of draglines to pin out make this a little challenge.

I drew lines to make sure the sleeves were set correctly as there is no mark for where it attached to the shoulder seams as the shoulder seams are 1.5 – 2 inches further back than normal and angled…very vintage I guess? They included a notch where the two piece sleeve seams are supposed to join the body but that is a joke as well. Notice the side seams are also positioned way to the back by about 3-4 inches, almost princess seams! Vintage?

Here is the shorter lapel but without any facings and the one collar pinned on.

Can you see the dart from the body on the under collar? Then the seam from the collar crossing that? What a holy mess! It is nothing like the artist’s rendering on the envelope.

At least the sleeves sit OK but my oh my they are wide and way too long…again vintage? At least when pinned, the double breasted fronts close, but on the pattern, it says they can be single-breasted using the one and only front pattern piece…really?

To keep from looking clown-like, I am tapering the sleeves and removing 3 inches in width and also 3-4 inches in length as there are cuffs to be attached later.


Have to drop the back neck one inch:

If you make this jacket, you have to like seeing a dart here and have to cut an additional upper collar to cover this lower one:

You will also have to figure out where the center front is on both front pieces to line them up. I drew a vertical line where the center front should be between the marks for the closures.

Here is the preferred version, deeper shawl collar with all 3 closures matching.

So let’s make that front facing/upper collar missing piece shall we? Lay some tracing paper over the top and draw the collar with the facing about 4 inches wide…I’m guessing here. Add seam allowances to the inside curved edge.

Making a lining is the same, more tissue paper and trace it and add seam allowances to attach to the facing.

The back gets its own lining and a center back pleat. Even though the jacket center back seam is curved, the lining will be cut on the fold and the waist area will be sewn shut a little for shaping. The lining will not have a little shaped neck facing as in other jackets.

OK, that’s the beginning of the pattern work…how about the fabrics?

Mr Mole was adamant about this…Burgundy wide wale corduroy and black satin quilted lapels. Do you know any online shops who carry wide wale corduroy? After a day of searching the internet, I found seller in Australia who was willing to send me 3 yards after he orders it from…South Korea!

So far I have had a nice slow start to the wedding season but it will not be without a few “howlers” as Kim calls them!

We are expecting snow and sleet today and the gold finches are eating up a storm at the feeders in preparation for Spring flirting and mating. The males are getting their bright yellow feathers to attract the ladies!


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67 Responses to Smoking Hot

  1. Laura says:

    Giggling here. And Mr. Mole – he doesn’t smoke – correct? Just about saw you in the mirror!!! You go girl.

  2. mrsmole says:

    Correct, Laura…but I think every stylish gentleman needs one of these fashionable garments! Ha ha And I need a break from Ivory tulle and satin!!!!!

  3. I wish you’d said you were considering a Reconstructing History pattern, they are notoriously DREADFUL. The woman who makes them is a historian, not a sewing expert, and oh boy it shows. Most folk in the costuming field avoid her stuff like the plague, for all the reasons you mention [although yes, the side seams towards the back are not inaccurate]
    Bin the pattern, never buy another one. Oh and don’t waste your breath complaining to the designer, she can get very nasty when criticised apparently… I wised up after the third pattern I tried [which was completely ridiculous, and wasted quite a bit of fabric too]. I had bought several patterns at more or less the same time, it served me right for not researching first.

    • mrsmole says:

      Thank you, Elaine, it seems that many of you have been burned by this type of pattern. But I will carry on and finish it with my improvements and consider it a big lesson learned. It is a shame that folks can promote patterns with perfect pictures on the envelope and then disappoint the buyer with so few pieces inside.

      • My experiences with RH started with the jodhpur/breeches pattern. They were HUGE which I thought was my issue, but later found not. The instructions did not match the garment, and I had to contact them for help with how to make the pockets work. She tried to help but couldn’t explain at all [and I later found that the garments are not tested before publishing, and are often taken from extant clothing or from original patterns without due understanding of assembly methods or grading.] Then I tried the riding skirt with button panels. Sizing was still bad, but it worked out OK. 50% success. Then I tried the gigot sleeve shirtwaists, and hit total disaster. The sleeve pattern was simply, totally, hideously wrong, and I eventually worked out that it was labelled completely incorrectly, so that the armscye was the side seam or some such horror. It didn’t fit onto the cuff piece in any arrangement, and the cuff could only have fitted round a Barbie’s wrist. Absolute scrap, wasted some very nice fabric on that. I should have stopped there, but I already had bought the pattern, and tried for the button front Edwardian skirt. Another near-disaster, the instructions could not possibly produce the garment as illustrated, and eventually I tracked down the original pattern which had been badly drafted ‘to size’ from the original instructions, and worked out what to do. I had to buy extra material and do some bodging to produce a wearable garment. All the patterns got binned after that, and I try to warn anyone off buying them! A dreadful company, and how they stay in business baffles me…same for Hot Patterns, but that’s a different story. All my RH adventures are blogged if you ever want to see the messes in action lol

      • mrsmole says:

        OH Elaine, your sewing adventures are just mind boggling and you deserve an Oscar for dealing with all the crappy patterns out there! Last night Lady Gaga told the audience that what she does in HARD WORK…ahhhh….no deary, the people in the costume department have the hard job!

  4. Juls says:

    Ah, yes, the historical patterns. I got roped into a Revolutionary War-era shirt one time and was presented with one of those paper messes labeled as a pattern. I ditched the whole thing and drafted my own to match the picture. It took way less time, and the young man was the only one wearing a shirt that fit and looked like the illustration. The parents were robbed of $20 each for that mess of paper! Wide wale corduroy- love it! Too bad he didn’t want loden- I have that stashed somewhere.

  5. Marilyn says:

    You are a GENIUS. Absolute genius, what you have done with that pattern. Love to read your blog and it is never in my inbox long before I have popped it open with excitement. Thank you!

    • mrsmole says:

      You are so sweet, Marilyn…we all learn so much from sewing blogs don’t we? Just this week I watched a Creative Bug video on how to make leggings and the whole time I was shouting at the screen…”NO, you don’t do it that way” and then vowed to never waste my time again.

  6. Nancy Figur says:

    Me too! I had one of those and it was awful. And the paper it was printed on was awful! When I am not in Christening gown season I do theater costumes and am always looking for good patterns and those are not among them.
    Like you, I get tired of white and tulle and lace and then part of the year I get to do sequins and metallic spandex (Little Mermaid) and this year all that goes with Sound of Music. I am waiting on my 100 yard roll of black fabric to start on the nuns. You just need to mix it up.

    I can’t believe that wide wale corduroy is not a thing anymore. Did you try Ebay. I find I do well there.
    Can’t wait to see the finished product!

    • erniek3 says:

      That show! Nuns, Nazis, those sailor dresses (very popular as choir dresses) and a couple loden jackets. I hope that your black fabric is reversible so there’s not one shiny/one not so shiny side. That stuff only shows up under stage lighting. I wish you a swift and successful process.

      • Nancy Figur says:

        Erniek3 – you are so right. The first sample was too shiny and on both sides. This one is great. I take them all into the theater. And to complicate things we just got all new LED lighting which changes lots of things – like giving white synthetics a pink cast. But our lighting guy has have one under control. Those sailor outfits are killers.

    • mrsmole says:

      Hi Busy Nancy…wow you have your hands full!!!! I did find that seller on Etsy after searching Ebay and every other fabric outlet online. Best of luck with all your projects and that 100 yard roll of black fabric!!! I was taught by nuns for 12 years!

  7. erniek3 says:

    Before the whine: Mr Mole is a lucky man with excellent taste. Fictionally, he is a poor driver, but he does have the best ride at Disneyland (you go to hell at the end!). Your commitment to this is amazing, and shows a lot of love there. Lucky two!
    I had a wonderful experience with that pattern company. I found an uncut/factory folds one at the thrift for 69 cents, and sold it online for fifteen dollars!
    There are a lot of historical pattern companies that have more history than drafting experience. So much so that I don’t think it’s worth it to buy them. I can draft the bits and bobs I need to add to a similar shaped pattern that already fits and doesn’t need me to do all the heavy lifting and pay for it, too. This sadly applies to a lot of independent non-historical pattern companies as well. It does make me sad that I have really stopped supporting people who are probably really good at their work, because I am so burned on the ones that aren’t.
    Remind me of this when it’s time to renew Pattern Review. They really do earn their keep with me once or twice a year. Maybe not in money but certainly in time.

    • mrsmole says:

      Thrift stores have many uncut patterns and so many vintage types. When I troll through the boxes of patterns, I have to laugh at so many that match what I have at home from the 70’s and 80’s back when they were not multi-sized. I remember going on the Mr. Toad’s wild ride when Disneyland opened back in 1956. In fact I have just converted my late Dad’s color slides of me right after opening day into jpeg format. Seeing the photos of all the other visitors it makes you think we were all going to church instead of an amusement park…dresses, hats and shiny patent leather shoes and men wearing suits!

  8. Mr Mole says:

    I am honored to be featured in this blog. And I shall feel even more honored when I get to wear the jacket. Mrs Mole is more than a genius. Only she has the patience to put up with me. This is a true labor of love.

    • Val says:

      Will all due credit to Mrs. Mole’s expertise (which is vast), I believe that we who read “Fit For A Queen” are deeply indebted to YOU because I believe that is you who keeps Mrs. Mole sane.

      • Mr Mole says:

        I’m afraid it’s the other way around. And it is a battle for her to keep me sane as I have no patience at all. She got my share.

    • Susan Hart says:

      Hi Mr. Mole,
      I’m Susan Hart, the woman who visited your lovely home last summer during the horrible fires, briefly to meet Mrs Mole, your “Saint”!
      You have a lovely garden, as I quickly glanced through the windows and I am totally in admiration of Mrs Mole’s beautiful sewing studio set-up as well as her seamstress skills and ‘INCREDIBLE’ patience with her customers.
      She mentioned the yellow finches feeding right now….what do you give them?
      I’ve started putting out Niger seed and they plow through that like it was nothing!! So I go through it too quickly….any other ideas as to what they like?
      You’re going to look “smashing” in this smoking jacket….
      S. Hart

      • Mr Mole says:

        Hi Susan. I’m afraid at this time of year they do only seem to like niger seed but will try sunflower seeds if they’re desperate. But they will eat the leaves on green veggies if you happen to have any winter crops around. We keep ours under netting! In the summer, we grow sunflowers and the finches love to eat the leaves on them.

    • Cheryl Designs says:

      Hi Mr. Mole 🙂 LOVE your gardens and LOVE your relationship with your wife 🙂 GOOD for both of you 🙂 🙂

      • Susan Hart says:

        Thanks for the tip, I’ll try to get going on my sinflowers again this summer. I had some huge ones a while back but no luck this last summer.

  9. Donna says:

    I’m lucky. I jnow what you and Mr. Mole look like. I was there when you met.

  10. Sandi says:

    Love, love what Mr. mole has to say about you. You are a Saint and a perfectionist and he is soooo lucky to have such a loving, talented wife. Can hardly wait to see the finished jacket!

  11. avantgarbe says:

    Reconstructing History is unfortunately known for horrendous patterns. *If* you are the one pattern size she based the pattern on it might be ok, but she has no clue how to scale patterns up or down, then blames the customer when they have issues.

    • mrsmole says:

      Thinking about other types of patterns and how we have to mess with them just to get them to fit and hang properly, it really is just another set of problems to be solved and thankfully muslins can help with that process.

  12. upsew says:

    Thank you for your recommendation on the audio book – A friend of mine is a big fan and coincidentally been unwell so I am looking forward to telling her of this. best of luck with the fitting. For a lot of historical clothing, I find the patterns are basic (and I am going by Janet Arnold books etc) so fitting as you are is key- bless your patience (again). looking forward to seeing the fabric choice.

    • mrsmole says:

      Can’t wait to see the corduroy and get going on planning the collar and interfacing! Listening to someone reading such an iconic book and having to use your imagination really can transport you to another time and space and one the road make the miles go by faster…OK eating M&M’s helps too!

  13. Monique says:

    I just love “The Wind in the Willows”. My childhood memories of the book and the English countryside are idyllic and very calming. Balm for the soul.
    And I’d like to sew something “historical”, so the mention of Reconstructing History got me excited as I didn’t yet know the brand. I’ve used a McCall’s (I think) with succes for a cape and a Medieval/Renaissance dress and laced corset, but wonder if there are any good historical patterns from other companies out there. How about Folkwear? I’d appreciate any ideas – their reviews seem good.
    Enjoy this project, Mrs. Mole!

    • Truly Victorian are superb, Laughing Moon are very good. Be sure to ASK on appropriate groups and fora before dipping your toe though as some patterns are not for the novice! Lots of help though

      • Monique says:

        Thank you so much! Not a novice, but not professional either – willing to dabble 🙂 Until now I have really enjoyed the envelope illustrations of both, not giving a thought to the good or not so good drafting. Wiser now, so thanks again!

    • Cheryl Designs says:

      I think the FOLKWEAR patterns are GREAT 🙂 I also think it sounds like you need to just purchase a ‘BIG FOUR’ COSTUME pattern and adjust, rather than a HISTORICAL PATTERN 😦 If they need that much WORK…MOST seamstresses are just not capable of dealing with that 😦 That is just SAD 😦 I am imagining ALL of the NEW seamstresses that are trying to WORK with these ‘HISTORICAL PATTERNS’ that are…..AWFUL 😦 I chat to people that STOPPED sewing years ago because they couldn’t manage the BIG FOUR. SAD 😦 We need MORE seamstresses-not LESS 🙂

      • Monique says:

        Thank you for such helpful input 🙂 The thing about the more “official” historical patterns, is they usually don’t look like carnaval outfits, and some could possible translate into “normal” day-to-day dress. If I’m specific, I think that’s what I’d like to do. But I would definitely have been one of those people to blame myself for the pattern not working… so I get what you mean. Luckily I’ve become more confident with the big four and adjustments. Life Long Learning!

      • mrsmole says:

        Bringing back sewing into schools would certainly be a good start!

  14. shoes15 says:

    I sewed the Folkwear Le Smoking Jacket for my husband as a Christmas present a few years ago. I made it out of silk velvet. It was a labor of love too, and a lot of work (pad stitching the collar, double-basting the velvet seams to prevent slipping) but it came out nice in the end. I have faith that yours will be fabulous! Nature’s Fabrics has corduroy in a variety of wales – may be worth checking out.

    • mrsmole says:

      Thank you, Julie, they do have a nice selection but sadly it is double the price of what I paid and the shipping would probably be about the same measuring air miles. You would think that somewhere in the US there would be a vendor with old fashioned corduroy?

  15. JustGail says:

    I know the Big 4 get trashed all the time for fitting issues, but based on the muslin, I’d think starting from a shawl collar bathrobe pattern from on of them would have been a better start. I wonder if the Reconstructing History person does a trace-off, and a bad one at that, of an existing garment outer parts and then has no clue about how to add the other necessary bits and makings? Not to mention grading for different sizes. And hates it when her lack of skills is pointed out by disappointed customers, but hey who cares, she’s got your money already???

    It’s patterns and companies like this that make me stick with big 4 patterns. They have issues, but at least they can be bought cheap at Joann. So far. Sorry, non-US people, I don’t mean to rub it in, just explaining my thinking on my hesitation on buying independent company patterns!

    All the issues aside, I know this will turn out great. Wide wale corduroy… I don’t know the last I’ve seen that in a store. I’ve seen pin wale in a few colors, but even that is not common.

    • mrsmole says:

      You do see wide wale in men’s pants RTW and you bet if a designer came out with a line of wacky clothes using corduroy…well maybe even JoAnn’s would carry it. Selling a pattern with no facings, no lining and no top collar pieces is just a shame but she has the money and very little incentive to improve her product.

  16. LinB says:

    Good heavens, it would have been far simpler for you to have drafted from scratch!

    Nice to know that Mr. Mole doesn’t smoke, since that means your work to construct this iconic jacket for him won’t be ruint by the odor of stale tobacco. I like a man who smells of good tobacco, but stale smoke infumed fabrid is not a scent on anyone’s Top Ten list. Certainly, it’s not on the Top Ten list of anyone whom I care to encounter!

    As well as shoes15, above, I can highly recommend any and all of the Folkwear garb. Drafting and instructions never disappoint.

    Janet Arnold’s “Patterns of Fashion” series is exceptional in all ways, especially in her detailed explanations of now-uncommon sewing techniques. Her work covers several centuries … I dimly remember that at least some male garments are included therein. You might enjoy glancing through the very large pages … if your local libraries don’t have them, they can initiate an inter-library loan for you. Or, a local college or university costume shop might let you have a peek at their copies.

    • Monique says:

      Thank you for the recommendation, good to know where the quality lies. Saves SO much bother and frustration. I recently bought a Janet Arnold book – for my daughter, who’s learned drafting and sewing, but I think it was more for myself to enjoy seeing. Thanks for the tip, though!

    • mrsmole says:

      Being an optimist and 50 years of sewing for clients behind me, I thought it might not be such a tough project and all I had to do was to find a pattern that resembles the Badger jacket and whoosh…away I could go….not quite…ha ha.

  17. Kim says:

    Nice to have a change Mrs M, and I’m sure it will get you lots of brownie points with himself. Particularly after wrestling with that pattern. What a stinker!

  18. Accordion3 says:

    Looking forward to seeing this evolve.

    And – a new fabric store near me – yay!

  19. Carol in Boulder says:

    Dear Mrs. Mole, longtime lurker here. I’ve enjoyed your blog for a long time. I too have been searching for corduroy. When I asked at Joann’s about the fact that there was no corduroy this year, the clerk said rather snippy tone,” It’s not in fashion anymore, didn’t you know?”.I like corduroy slacks for winter because they are warmer and comfortable. I found some at a fabric and craft thrift store in town. One of the reasons I sew is that I don’t have to follow fashion as much as make clothes that I like and fit.
    I’ve learned so much about fit from you. I was able to alter my daughter’s bridesmaid dress a few years ago because of your blog.
    In an aside, my grandmother was an alterations lady at the venerable Meier and Franks store in Portland. She got a discount for fabric purchases, too. During WWII she got a job in the ship manufacturing plant in Vancouver, WA. She made more than most of the women because she knew how to transfer and cut out patterns, working in steel instead of fabric. When I went shopping for a wedding gown, we were treated like royalty by the ladies in the bridal department.
    Thanks for a great blog.

    • Monique says:

      ” It’s not in fashion anymore, didn’t you know?”
      Well, it is over here – in the Netherlands, since last Fall…

      • mrsmole says:

        Corduroy does make a statement…classic, warm and cozy and cotton with maybe a hint of polyester to make it wrinkle resistant…what’s not to like?

    • mrsmole says:

      What a great story! When I asked at my JoAnn’s about corduroy, I was sent to the denim rack…nothing resembling corduroy was there but the rest of the store was piled to the ceiling (no exaggeration) with polar fleece in every color and motif and sports team imaginable. We had a Meier and Frank store in our little town when we moved here 18 years ago but sadly now we have a small Macy’s instead. Some of the best seamstresses in our valley worked in the man’s tailoring department but nothing like that is offered anymore.

  20. elombuasu says:

    Cloth House in London has a fabulous selection of wide wale in really interesting colors-some of which are cotton/cashmere blends that feel as amazing as that sounds. You will pay through the nose, but it’s the best selection I’ve seen. They have a very limited number on the web site but if you email or phone (or have a friend in London?) they’ll help you out.

  21. Well you are going to give this pattern a make over and it’s going to come out the other end absolutely PERFECT!

  22. Renita says:

    One of the reasons corduroy is hard to find is it was a main staple of Cone Mills of Greensboro NC. Yes the same maker of Selvedge Denim. They were bought ought by a company who had plans to close the company and sure enough they did. The White Oak plant closed last October. Cone had ceased manufacturing Corduroy decades before the closing. So a 100 year old textile manufacturer no longer exists, like so many others. 😩
    Your project is fascinating. Leave it to you ‘the miracle sewist’ to make that pattern work! Love your postings. Renita in NC

    • mrsmole says:

      I remember seeing the name Cone on the best fabrics but unfortunately they were bought out by Asset Acquisition teams like the ones that a former presidential contender was working with. Buy a company, sell off everything and close the doors seems to be an epidemic.

  23. Carolyn F. says:

    I really enjoy reading your blog and have recommended it to some of my sewing guild friends who did alterations on bridal fashions. I made my wedding dress and my daughter’s dress following the family tradition. My grandmother made hers in 1900, mother in 1947, me in 1972, and then I made my daughter’s in 2010. I don’t think I would want to do it for others.
    I remembered seeing wide wale corduroy at Style Maker Fabric which is located in Arlington, Washington. One is a cranberry color and does have some stretch, though. in There are also about 15 colors at, located in Georgia, including a wine Looking forward to seeing the finished jacket. I’m not affiliated with either company but have ordered from both.

  24. mrsmole says:

    If the fabric from Korea is not up to snuff, I will surely contact and order the stretch version. Thank you for the link. I now realize I should have added “stretch” in my search although Mr. More didn’t want stretch and I plan on using a woven lining with no stretch this time around. Imagine using that fabric in cozy pants…yummy and lots of butt room!

  25. Elizabeth says:

    Stonemountain and Daughter has some wide wale cord, but not in maroon. Could he be sold on mahogany?

    • mrsmole says:

      All depends on what the fabric from South Korea ends up like before I go searching for more but thank you for checking, Elizabeth! Maybe others in the Bay Area in search of cozy will drop in and fall in love.

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